Excerpted from the book
Powers That Be


We are all skeptics and want a rational explanation for how walking along with a simple tree branch in the shape of a Y can lead someone to the perfect spot to dig a well, or how holding a pendulum over a map can locate a lost plane. So I always like to introduce newcomers to the amazing world of dowsing with some research and theories about how dowsing might work. I find this helps people when they start out because, first of all, in order to get results, it's important to believe that dowsing can work. And having some understanding of how it might work usually helps beginners to believe. Also, it takes some of the "spook" out of it!

You can make your own pendulum out of a favorite talisman: a cross, ring, pendulum, cork, or crystal. Just hang it securely and evenly from a chain or even a string. Sometimes a person might feel most comfortable working with an instrument of his own making, with an object of special, personal significance.
There have been many attempts to explain the often mind-boggling results that dowsers can get, but no single explanation has been agreed upon. Skeptics have suggested that when dowsers locate a precise spot to drill a well, they are responding to the physical terrain of a place without realizing it, instinctively knowing where water will be found beneath the ground based on clues from the land above. Some believe that it must be an external force that guides the instruments, rather than an internal force that emanates from the person dowsing. But this doesn't explain why some dowsers don't need an instrument, they just tune in to physiological changes they feel in their body when they dowse, and let these changes guide them.

The most likely explanation is that dowsing is the ability to tune in to some force that science has not yet identified. For instance, water and the items that dowsers find may have a natural magnetic, electromagnetic, or other unknown energy to which dowsers are able to attune their instruments. A fairly simple science experiment shows how moving water can cause electricity to flow. Water drops moving down a wire will rake off enough electrons to cause a small neon bulb to flash--a requirement of over 68 volts. (You experience something similar when you slide across a plastic seat and get an electric shock when you touch someone.) Water flowing underground also causes some kind of electric current. Any time electricity flows in any kind of conductor, it creates an electromagnetic field. What if this field could then be picked up by internal sensors that we all have?

Is it possible that we have sensory systems that we are not consciously aware of? Back in 1983, a neurophysiologist at the V.A. Medical Center in Loma Linda, California, reported observing effects from electric fields only one-millionth as strong as those formerly considered threshold levels in humans. This was news to most scientists, but not to many dowsers! Dowsers have frequently conducted experiments at dowsing conventions in which they passed electricity through ground, and found they could easily pick up the resulting electromagnetic energies. Scientists have identified three sensors that can pick up this electromagnetic information. One is near or in the pituitary gland (in the brain), and there is one on each adrenal gland (near each kidney). The theory is that by comparing the information from these three internal sensory points, the brain can determine both the distance and direction of an electromagnetic source without our conscious awareness--much in the way the brain uses the two eyes to calculate how far away an object is, another thing the brain does without us consciously thinking about it.

So how do we get this sensory information from the unconscious to our conscious mind? That is where dowsing comes in--in particular, the dowsing instrument. Experiments have been performed in muscle testing, in which the subconscious can be programmed to cause involuntary muscles to be strong for a true statement and weak for a false statement. There have also been experiments that test the muscles in dowsers, with the finding that dowsers move their instruments with involuntary muscle movements. Do you see how this could work? Say our internal sensory systems pick up electrical currents from the flow of water underground. Our conscious mind may not "know" we feel these electrical signals, but the sensory systems could trigger involuntary muscle responses tht indicate the "yes" response in dowsing instruments. The muscles of the body respond involuntarily, guided by the unconscious--or at least, by that of which we are not aware.

Perhaps you're saying, "But that doesn't explain map dowsing or information dowsing." After all, dowsers are able to locate things by dowsing on a map with a pendulum; and they are able to dowse for this information by "programming" their subconscious to respond by giving certain signals indicating a "yes" or "no" to questions. (You'll learn to do this later.) What kind of energy could our internal sensors be tuning in to in these instances?

Map dowsing seems to be related to something called the "Backster Effect." Cleve Backster is a lie detector specialist who attached a galvanic skin response detector (a lie detector, in effect) to the top leaf of a plant. This device measures the electrical resistance of the skin--or in this case, the leaf. He then watered the plant, intending to measure the amount of time it would take for the water to reach the leaf and change its electrical resistance. To his surprise, the detector immediately indicated a response that correlated with a "happy" response in humans (the galvanic skin response that equates with a happy state). Puzzled, he decided to measure a traumatic response in the plant by burning a leaf. The plant showed a fear response on the lie detector as soon as he had the thought. He hadn't even picked up the match yet! (Ever notice that people who talk to their plants have the best green thumbs?)

Backster's experiments have been duplicated thousands of times, using many variations, by many scientists. These experiments and others like them have been argued to show that there is some type of energy--I'll call it "superconscious energy," for lack of a better term--that seems to have been flowing through Backster's mind and the plant. Have you ever felt ill at ease or apprehensive for no apparent reason? Perhaps this is the undetected energy that explains a mother's intuition.

A basic theory is, then, that using a dowsing instrument allows your subconscious to tap in to the wealth of information available from this superconscious energy. It follows, therefore, that water dowsing is the most physical type of dowsing because it is most closely related to your body's own sensitivity to the electrical currents of underground water. Dowsing for objects is also likely related to the body's allowing itself to tune in to electrical currents. It seems more psychic in nature, however, because you really have to let your rational mind let go of preconceptions in order to get in touch with energies you are not conscious of.

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